Thursday, October 20, 2011

Sellers Concession without disclosed Gross-up = Subterfuge

So says the Committee on Professional Ethics to the New York State Bar Association in Opinion 882 (10/14/11). This Opinion is a follow-up and clarification of Opinion 817 (2007), which has been the subject of great discussion in the real estate world since its issuance.

In essence, these Opinions discuss the ethics of increasing a purchase price, to in effect, increase a mortgage, to thereafter pay the buyer's closings costs (which is traditionally a sellers concession), but now a seller's concession without a concession on the part of the seller. The issue is this: A seller's concession with a gross-up changes the Loan to Value ratio and consequently the risk of the investment for the mortgagee. Further, this risk is shared with whomever later purchases the mortgage coupled with tax assessors and the like. Yet, without full disclosure in all of the closing documents, future mortgage purchasers / property assessors will not be placed on appropriate notice of the increased risk, consequently paying more for the purchase than the value; hence, the Subterfuge.

In essence, the closing parties circumvent the Banking Law's restrictions on closing costs to mortgage ratios & manipulate public records on closing prices.

The Opinion goes on to state a lawyer, whether the seller's, buyer's and lender's, who participates in a transaction with a sellers concession and gross-up without full disclosure in all closing papers is violating Rule 8.4(c) of his ethic's rules.

Lastly, the Opinion states that a lawyer is not discharged from this obligation by the suggestion of the mortgage broker, loan officer or other employee of the bank. Therefore, its a non-waivable requirement to disclose a sellers concession and gross-up.

The disclosure required is that: "The sales prices has been increased by a sum equal to the seller's concession". Write it in all your real estate papers and your are in the clear. Now lets go close some deals.